Should I Become A Certified Legal Nurse Consultant?
Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) are registered nurses who provide medical counsel on legal matters. They act as liaisons between attorneys and the medical profession. Legal nurse consultants assist lawyers by offering insight into medical issues and the accepted practice standards. LNCs often review medical records and reports for cases that involve personal injury, negligence, workers' compensation, malpractice, or wrongful deaths. These professionals may also explain complex medical issues to clients or act as expert witnesses.
LNCs may be employed by insurance companies or legal firms, and they may be required to travel in some cases. Many nurses employed in hospitals or clinics work long shifts or irregular hours. Those who serve as nursing consultants usually enjoy a set schedule during regular business hours. As with all nurses, occasional contact with patients may expose them to infectious diseases.
|Degree Level||Associate or bachelor's degree|
|Experience||Five years of experience in general nursing, 2,000 hours of experience in legal nurse consulting for certification|
|Licensure and Certification||State nursing license (RN) required; legal nurse consultant certification required by many employers|
|Key Skills||Empathy, close attention to details, organization and problem-solving skills. Familiarity with medical records systems, knowledge of medical-legal terminology and medical tools. Must be comfortable testifying in court if needed.|
|Salary||$71,593 (median salary for legal nurse consultants)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, PayScale.com (July 2015), The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), CareerBuilder.com Job notices (December 2012).
Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse
Three types of nursing programs are available. Nursing diplomas are offered by some teaching hospitals, associate's degrees are granted by two year community colleges and the Bachelor's Degree in Nursing is a four year university program.
Common courses in nursing programs include medical terminology, human anatomy, psychology, human physiology, nutrition and chemistry. Students may complete clinical sessions in various medical departments, such as pediatrics, oncology, surgery or the emergency room. Some may also participate in clinical training outside of hospitals. This training might include elderly-care facilities, community clinics and public health departments.
Step 2: Gain Licensure
After graduating from a nursing program, individuals must complete licensing procedures in accordance with their state laws. All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to become licensed RNs. Besides passing the NCLEX-RN, some states may have additional requirements.
Step 3: Gain Nursing Experience
Applicants for certification as a LNC must have experience in clinical nursing. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) requires applicants to meet several criteria, including five years of practice as a registered nurse. Newly licensed registered nurses often start off as staff nurses at hospitals. Registered nurses can also work for doctors' offices, home health-care services or for government agencies.
- Choose a field specialty. By choosing to specialize, nurses will become extremely familiar with the particular needs of various patient populations. Specific field knowledge may also prove useful with becoming a certified LNC, especially if clients are looking for consultants with a particular nursing background.
Step 4: Complete a Legal Nurse Consultant Training Program
Individuals can complete legal nurse consultant training courses or certificate programs. Most programs will accept only registered nurses; students need a clinical nursing background to understand the course materials. Topics covered include medical records review and analysis, legal terminology, forensic nursing, workers' compensation investigations and trial preparation. Students may also learn about the practical side of becoming an LNC, such as how to find clients and marketing LNC services.
- Complete an internship. Some legal nurse consulting certificate programs offer internship opportunities. Student interns spend time working with experienced LNCs or attorneys. During internships, students gain a better understanding of reviewing medical documents for trials. Students also learn about the relationships between LNCs and their clients, which will be helpful in finding employment.
Step 5: Move Ahead by Becoming Certified
Certification is not required for registered nurses to work as LNCs, but having this credential demonstrates experience, training and expertise. The AALNC requires certification applicants to show proof that they have completed at least 2,000 hours of LNC services during the past five years and to pass an exam. Topics on the exam may include elder law, personal injury, risk management, medical malpractice and workers' compensation laws.
- Maintain licenses and certification. Nursing license renewal requirements vary per state, but many states require that registered nurses complete professional development or continuing education coursework. According to the AALNC, there are two options for LNC certification renewal. Every five years, applicants can either complete 60 units of continuing education coursework or they can retake certification exams.